Over the last few days the jury has been out at the inquest whilst legal submissions take place. These have been about determining what conclusions/verdicts the jury can reach through directions and the questions that will be put to them to determine this.
As the jury are not present the proceedings whilst technically open to the public we cannot update in any detail so this is a summary. Both legal teams presented arguments to what should be included/excluded in the directions as verdicts for the Jury. What is fairly predictable by now is the TVP legal team trying to downplay the role of positional asphyxia, but there is an acceptance from them that at least some of the actions of the officers in the restraint were unlawful.
The family recognise the that the causation is multifactorial but we want to ensure that the role of the officers in the restraint and the subsequent ‘aftercare’ are central.
A number of legal tests have to be applied and there are issues about the ‘reasonableness’ of the actions of the officers. Tony Metzer QC on behalf of the family stated that given manner of the evidence from the police and the undisputed evidence of the experts to avoid injustice the unlawful killing (manslaughter) should be left to the jury. All the experts confirmed that restraint was a major contributory factor in his death. Tony made the argument that the jury need to consider the causation of the death in the context of the actions of the officers and that he died during the restraint.
Asked for clarification about the Coroner’s decision on unlawful killing verdict/conclusion and he confirms that he will keep it in. He talked through case for Gross Negligence Manslaughter and that this includes use of force and risk of positional asphyxia, and the failure to give commands, treat him as a vulnerable person, appoint a lead/senior officer, and failure to monitor and give adequate first aid and CPR and providing incomplete information to the ambulance service.
There is a strong case for Gross Negligence Manslaughter argued by Tony based on the evidence that has come from the inquest and the questions from jurors. Cited quote from DS Liles about his reluctance to give Habib mouth to mouth. They breached their duty of care that may have led to his death. Also added that Misadventure and Neglect could be considered by the jury if they decide not to consider that restraint played a considerable part
Patrick Gibbs QC, on behalf of the officers came back with his objections/challenges to short form verdict/conclusion and that was not sure of the short form/narrative combination. Challenged Gross Negligence Manslaughter verdict being offered as there was in his view no guidance about techniques about mouth searches etc..so they cannot be challenged on this. He also out of seemingly nowhere raised concerns about the local news headlines that had come from the ‘break his arms’ command which caused some commotion in the public gallery!
Sarah Simcox, TVP Counsel for the force raised her concerns about training in a possible narrative verdict. In relation to doing mouth searches for drugs she stated there is still no TVP training in place and this was the case in 2008.
Today (25th Feb) was supposed to be about summing and directions for the jury. However there were more arguments about the questions that were to be put the jury and he directions that will be put to them. We had invited people to fill the public gallery in anticipation of this however there was unsurprisingly disagreement between the legal teams about the questions and what was going to be put to the jury.
The Coroner Richard Hulet produced a first draft in the morning based on submissions raised yesterday. This was debated and discussed and objections raised and a second draft was produced which is more acceptable but there were still further objections in particular from the TVP Counsel for the officers & for the force.
Tony Metzer QC argued that it was in the public interest to question why restraint techniques were used in a training context. Still not enough questions on force and the restraint that used. Submissions were made by Tony regarding Coroner’s directions and he challenged the citing of Section 76 if it applies in inquest proceedings. He also clarified Regulation 28 report in context of training and any recommendations.
We are pleased that an unlawful killing verdict/conclusion is being considered as well as the possibility of a critical narrative verdict emerging. How the jury will be directed and the content of the directions will be vital for us in getting a verdict that the family are content with.